Archive for December, 2009

Grilled Squid for Christmas

December 24, 2009

Not very traditional, I know, but long ago I renounced eating turkey out of ethical and health considerations. Plus, grilled squid tastes a lot better than the bird. The slippery creatures live free in the oceans and with increasing water temperatures, there is a cephalopod bonanza all over the world. In fact, in some areas, like off the coast of California, the large Humboldt squid are becoming a problem due to their abundance. In today’s vulnerable seas, the squid fisheries is one of the sustainable ones.

The recipe offered here  is a mix of what I tasted in Piran, a lovely town on the Adriatic shores of Slovenia and my father’s own, which he borrowed -and bettered- from Japanese immigrants in the Peruvian port of El Callao.  The original Mediterranean and Adriatic recipe includes garlic, lemon and parsley. The soy sauce and ginger additions are definitely Asian. This  is a very simple and simply delicious meal.

Grab a 2 pound pack of frozen squid tubes and tentacles, thaw, wash with fresh water, rinse and pat dry. Marinate in a bowl with crushed garlic (2 cloves), chili flakes (to taste), chopped fresh ginger (a thimble full), white wine (I used half a cup of inexpensive Australian Chardonnay) and a few dashes of soy sauce. For this latter ingredient, I used the light version. Marinate in fridge for 6 hours.

Heat a cast iron skillet and brush it with cooking oil Iif you have a bbq all the better). Take the squid marinade, pat dry on a t-towel and grill on cast iron skillet over high heat. Don’t overcrowd the skillet; you should have about half of the surface covered with tubes and tentacles. You will need a couple of minutes until brown. Set aside in warm oven and continue until all squid is grilled.

Serve immediately on warm platter. Pour plenty of your favorite olive oil (when I say plenty I mean swimming in oil) and squirt a lemon on the dish. Sprinkle with a handful of finely chopped parsley and eat with Portuguese buns or Parisian Baguette.

Wine choices: Albarino from Northern Spain, Burgans is a good option. Raimat Chardonnay Albarino would also accompany this plate with elan. Chablis and Falanghina would also enhance this dish.

Merry Christmas to all!


Say Oc to Languedoc

December 17, 2009

Languedoc Wine Conference Dinner November 23rd, 2009, C Restaurant Vancouver

Decidedly French and charmingly candid, Regional Representative Christine Molines (that would be, Christine Windmills) can be very passionate when the subject is the wines of Languedoc. Last month, at a wonderfully well put together tasting at C Restaurant on False Creek, she walked a delighted audience through the regions of the Southern France wine powerhouse (it has more vineyard area than Australia) and through a flight of eight products that did not disappoint.

The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks Languedoc is “Where the hell is that? What wines are made there?” The appellation does not have the resonance and prestige of Bordeaux, Burgundy, not even of the lesser known Loire or Alsace. Let’s start with the name. Languedoc -originally Langue d’Oc- translates as ‘language of Oc,’ this latter word meaning “yes”. The region stretches like an arc hugging the Mediterranean from the Pyrenees near the border with Spain, to the city of Nimes in the Gard, the latter an appellation that officially corresponds to the wine departements of the Southern Rhone. The Languedoc wine country is analogous to California because of its vast vineyard acreage, its sun baked hills and maritime influence. That is where the similarities stop.

Unlike its American cousin, the Languedoc’s landscape is dotted with castles, cathedrals and rocky outcrops on which the ruins of palaces and temples speak of a rich past, a hinge of cultures that from the time of the Greeks have recognized it as premier wine country. The appellation is fragmented in a number of sub-appellations, of which Coteaux du Languedoc, Corbieres and Minervois are the best known.  Still reds are the bulk of the production but Lunel and Frontignan’s dessert wines (Vin Doux Naturels) as well as exciting sparkling wines from Limoux are part of the region’s vinous arsenal.

The predominant black grapes are Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsault. Often maligned and misunderstood, the last two can produce beautiful wines when grown to produce small crops on marginal, sloped, schist-predominant soils. In some areas, namely Cabardes and Malepere, Atlantic varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot can be found blended with the Mediterranean ones. Piquepoul, Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Bourboulenc predominate in white blends, which tend to be robust and aromatic. Delicious, floral, appley sparkling wines are made with those grapes and also with Mauzac, a variety rarely found outside the region.

With over a dozen sub-appellations and areas undergoing classification, diversity in the taste and character of the wines is to be expected. However, the terroir exercises its influence throughout the region, principally through the aromas of la garrigue. This is a quintessential Languedoc landscape, defined by scrubland perfumed by strong ocean, mineral and herbal scents. Lavender, thyme, rosemary, Aleppo pine and others mingle with the soils and the salty marine breeze, propping up the grapes’ aromas and flavors. This bouquet of wild vegetation and minerals is the olfactory hallmark of the appellation’s wines. In a subsequent post I will review the wines tasted at that memorable show (special thanks to Mireille Sauve of The Wine Umbrella who helped organize the event).

However, I feel I also owe a note to the region as a tourist destination. Enchanting cities, like Montpellier and fairy-tale like rural landscapes, as in Gassac, make this region a must see for the wine traveler. If the beauty, history and wine were not enough, there is the delicious food. Cassoulet, choucroute, bouillabaisse, goat cheese, the list goes on. Today’s Languedoc is a marriage between the land and the Mediterranean, enjoying a cultural tradition to which all, Greek and Phoenician, Roman and Visigoth, Arab and Franc have contributed and shaped. Say Oc to the wines of Languedoc.